PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival Offers Rochester Citizens a Platform for Innovation

PlaceMakers, the Rochester prototyping festival, in this writer’s humble opinion has really engaged Rochester citizens, instilled a sense of community, and offered people the opportunity to innovate.  This Tuesday, groups of Rochester residents pitched sixteen selected prototype concepts at the Rochester Art Center, highlighting the possibilities that can occur when communities band together.

The PlaceMakers initiative began only this April to engage the community and test ideas of what the future of Rochester could look like.  The public was charged to examine the built environment of the city and determine how that environment could be used to support better health.

Teams developed ideas for prototypes- or a preliminary models used to test and refine concepts before final development- around this idea of health and the built environment.  And Rochester responded.  A total of twenty-three prototype concepts were submitted to DMC, Rochester Art Center, and Downtown Rochester Alliance.  A group of volunteers took an in-depth look at the proposals and narrowed down the field to sixteen submissions to move forward.

These sixteen groups pitched their prototype concepts to the community Tuesday night and have the opportunity to display a physical prototype during the PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival in September in conjunction with the Mayo Transform Conference.

The PlaceMakers Pitch Night wasn’t really about individual teams.  It almost wasn’t really about the prototypes.  The theme was more about community, encouragement, and value added.

Many of the selected prototypes developed by Rochester’s resident innovators would create a more bike and pedestrian friendly city, including the Artscaping the Bikeway, Creative Crosswalks, and Bike Corral concepts. 

Two proposals, Recharging Wastewater and SWAMP, targeted water management issues.

Several were just about having fun like the Chime In, Kids on the Block, Rocker Talker, and Sit next to me, Sue! concepts.

Some would instill a sense of inclusivity in the city, including the Info Alley, Inner Ear Echo, and Multilingual Pedestrian Signage prototypes. 

The Destination Inner Peace and The Living Wall concepts were about finding a sense of relaxation and peace from nature.

Two proposals in particular left the room speechless.

The first was Light Rail.  This concept would project colored lights underneath the Rochester skyways.  The colors would constantly change to represent some major medical or health event happening in the city.  One color might indicate the birth of a child, another the completion of the final round of radiation, and yet another the awarding of a twenty-four-hour Alcoholic Anonymous token.  Not only would this design foster inclusivity, it would allow for the city as a whole to share in these positive moments of hope.

The Town Cube was the second awe-inspiring prototype.  The concept is exactly what it sounds like.  The Town Cube is made up of small, cube-like structures.  The design, in a sense, challenges what we think is the “typical Rochester citizen,” especially as our community becomes more and more diverse.  The structure would engage the community by asking questions or displaying statistics on the surface of the cubes, all related to a sense of belonging and cultural identity.  The team is considering ways to encourage people to take selfies and have the images displayed on the cubes.

Now it’s time for the teams to build.  The next stop is the PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival in September. 

Are you interested in watching the progress or helping one of the teams?  All prototypers can use a Maker Space in the Rochester Art Center woodshop Thursdays from 5-9PM starting in August.

For more detailed information on all of the prototypes, check out a recent Med City Beat article.